When I was a toddler I had a dog called Patrick.
Patrick was my loyal companion for some part of my life between being able to walk and going to school.
I have based this estimation on the fact that I cannot have been more than a couple of feet tall when I was taking Patrick for walks. I know this because Patrick was not really a dog, but in truth the bath plug being pulled along on its chain.
I have always assumed that this was an idiosyncrasy all of my own, born out of being the youngest and so in need of someone to master.
The logic behind the plug choice was that the chain reminded me of the dog leads I had seen tethering mutts outside our local shops, while on errands there in the pushchair.
The name, I only understood years later, when my Dad and I visited an old friend of his and heard him call “Paaaaatriiiick” at which an old but very friendly labrador appeared at his side. It all fell into place.
So when I saw Snooks starting to drag around pieces of cloth, bits of string – anything that reached the floor from his hot little hand, I knew exactly what was needed. We soon had Barney in a collar fashioned from an old head-band, with Snooks’ snake belt hooked onto it as a lead.
The likeness to a real lead and collar are the measure of fulfilment derived from the whole dog thing, as I recall.
I was eventually weaned off the bath plug when handed responsibility for the family dog Fido, whose long woolly body, knitted by a friend of my mother’s and stuffed with old tights, was for a while the flesh and blood of my own best friend.
It was a partnership which ended abruptly one night during the 1970 power cuts, when my father, having a quiet cigarette in the pitch dark, tried to pick up the pillar ashtray beside his chair, unaware that Fido, obediently awaiting my return, was tethered to it.
Once the contents of the ashtray had been spilled on the carpet, both the ashtray and Fido were flung out of the lounge window.
It was not long after the incident, that Fido’s thespian career took off as he landed the part of second lamb in the local school’s nativity, which I imagine is still running to this day.
Snooks’ interest in dogs has never faded since he first started shouting out to them as we passed them on the common. And now, pulling Barney around by a lead seems to have awakened a new interest.
This morning, after a long Snookle in bed, I suggested to him that Barney might need a walk and watched as he gently pulled the pet down the hallway looking behind to make sure Barney was following.
Surely he can’t have inherited it. Is Barney following in the prints of Patrick and Fido or is there a more obvious explanation - a need for companionship?
Snooks will not have little brothers and sisters to torment (come on, we all know it is the pay-off to older siblings for having to play second fiddle when the new one arrives) as the Engineer and I figured we had just about snuck under the wire begetting one; A second, at our advancing years, could well be asking for trouble.
Besides it is hard to imagine loving another as much as I love this one. Sharing myself with anyone else feels like a betrayal. Of course the Engineer does not count. That’s different.
Anyway, it was probably no coincidence that, just as a couple of mumfriends are now expecting their second, I found myself shouting “Let’s get a dog!” while watching the birth of nine, outrageously cute labrador pups on telly the other night?
The Engineer, so far, has kept his silence.